Governor Jerry Brown and several statewide constitutional officers were sworn in today, in a series of events from morning to night, in great venues from Memorial Auditorium to the California History Museum to the Sacramento Library. Attendees going from one to another could pledge allegiance many times.
Governor Brown’s remarks–including his humorous ad libs–was important, setting a tone for a tough political debate around the budget.
Health issues were front-and-center at the evening ceremony of Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. As we reported on our Twitter feed @healthaccess, Jones declared his goal that his Department of Insurance to become the “strongest consumer protection agency in the nation, bar none.”
He laid out three top priorities: 1) implementing health reform; 2) consumer protection; and 3) fostering a vibrant and competitive marketplace.
While he laid out specifics in the other areas as well, he really focused on health reform, and abiding by the voters who chose an “activist” commissioner, he made news with several first steps he was taking this evening:
* creating a new deputy commissioner of health reform, to elevate that work in the Insurance Department;
* leading a new legislative effort to provide the Insurance Commissioner with the authority to approve or deny rate hikes;
* declaring his intention to enforce the new federal health law in California, and many of the new provisions.
Insurance Commissioner Jones explicitly and forcefully contrasted his efforts to enforce the consumer protections under the new federal health law with the opposition of some of the new Congressional leadership. He stated his intention was to move forward with the consumer protections in California–regardless of the repeal attempts by Republicans in Congress.
With every insurance lobbyist in town in the room–and many, many others from the Sacramento area coming to see their hometown hero, Jones made it a point to take his first action this evening, and on the issue of health reform.
He signed emergency regulations to immediately enforce the new “medical loss ratio” provisions in the individual market, so that insurers spend at least 80% of their premium dollars on patient care, and not administration and profit. After signing the order and posing for pictures, the newly empower Jones told the crowd: “That felt good.. Cause as a legislator, you can’t do that.”
Jones ended by promising “action.” We look forward to working with Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, and seeing his many subsequent actions in the months and years to come.